This article was originally published on My Mental Health on 15 September 2020.
Dementia is an illness that leads to the decline of the brain and its abilities in judgement, language, planning, and behaviour. It can affect adults of any age, although it is more likely to occur in those above 65 years old.
Definition of Dementia
There are three common misperceptions about dementia:
- Dementia is just about forgetfulness
- Dementia is part and parcel of old age
- Nothing can be done to help the condition
Dementia is more than forgetfulness. It diminishes a person’s ability to take care of himself and causes problems with planning and communication. It also leads to changes in personality and behaviour.
Dementia is the loss of intellectual abilities (such as thinking, remembering and reasoning) which interfere with a person’s daily functioning. It is not a disease in itself, but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases.
There are, however, a number of effective treatments that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life for the patient.
Types of Dementia
There are several types of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Another common form of dementia is vascular dementia, which occurs after a series of small strokes causes problems with blood circulation to the brain. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is preventable through modifying lifestyle choices and habits.
Recognise the Warning Signs
Knowing the symptoms of dementia and identifying them early can help make a positive difference to both the patient and family members.
Here are 10 warning signs of dementia to look out for:
- Memory loss that affects day-to-day functions
- Difficulty doing familiar tasks
- Misplacing things
- Confusion about time and place
- Problems communicating
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Poor or decreased judgement
- Changes in mood or behaviour
- Changes in personality
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
Understand More about These Warning Signs
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, and it affects not just the patient, but their loved ones as well. Watch Moses Lim explain how to recognise some signs and symptoms of dementia here.
Reducing the Risk
Studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and certain types of dementia. Here are four lifestyle habits that can lower dementia risk:
- Stay mentally stimulated: read, write, play cards or board games, and do crosswords. Learn a new language or how to play a musical instrument
- Maintain an active social life: meet up for meals and activities with your family and friends. Volunteer, join a club, or participate in community events
- Maintain a healthy diet: increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. Take less sugar and salt, and choose food low in fat and saturated fat
- Keep physically active: exercise increases blood circulation and may improve brain function. Get active by walking briskly, dancing, or practicing qigong
There is no definitive cure for dementia as the exact causes are unclear. However, it is possible to minimise some of the common symptoms with medication. Therapies such as reality orientation and reminiscence also help to manage some of these symptoms. Occupational therapists carry out activities of daily living training for the elderly to encourage independence in the community.
The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) runs a Psychogeriatric Clinic located at Specialist Clinic B, Geylang Behavioural Medicine Clinic and the Community Wellness Clinic, which cater to the mental health needs of the elderly in Singapore. Services provided by the multidisciplinary team include both inpatient and outpatient assessments and management.
Caring for persons with dementia
Caring for a dementia patient can be challenging, as well as stressful. It can also take a physical and emotional toll on the caregiver. To provide the best possible care for patients, caregivers can start by looking after their own health and wellbeing.
Having a strong support network really helps too. Apart from friends and family, help can also come from fellow caregivers in support groups. Support groups provide caregivers a place to share their feelings, gain emotional support and talk to people who they can relate to. Alzheimer’s Disease Association (formerly known as Dementia Singapore) provides help and support for caregivers.
For more information on dementia:
Republished with permission from HealthHub
Images from Freepik